Of all the things there are to do in Galveston riding the ferry between the east end of Galveston Island and Port Bolivar is my favorite. I'm not sure what I like the most about it. Maybe its the gulf breezes, even if it has a touch of diesel exhaust mixed with it. Or it might be watching the big freighters coming in and out of the Houston ship channel. Or maybe the occasional bunch of porpoises jumping ahead of the boat, maybe feeding the gulls off the stern of the ferry. Probably all of those and the biggest reason of all. It's free!
A municipally owned ferry service was started in the early 1930's with two diesel powered ferries that held about 30 cars each. In 1985 the Texas Highway Department took over. They operate six diesel powered ferries 24 hours a day. They are 185 feet long and travel at 12 knots. Each ferry carries 52 standard size cars and 400 passengers.
Directions to the ferry are quite simple. Come south out of Houston on Interstate 45. Stay on it. After you cross the causeway to Galveston Island at mile marker "0" the highway turns into Broadway. Continue on Broadway and as you move East on the island you will observe signs directing you to the ferry landing.
Unless you have a lot of time or plan on continuing on State Highway 87, it is recommend that you go onboard as a passenger. This is the easiest way to see the sites and not commit yourself to finding a place on Port Bolivar to turn around and getting to the back of the line of cars waiting to get on the return ferry and in the summer time lines can be long.
The highway department has made special provisions for walking passengers. Follow the signs to the parking lot. There are signs directing you to the walk on passenger boarding area.
Whether walking on or driving on always follow the directions of the ferry deck hands. I have always found them to be courteous and helpful.
If you have children with you be sure and watch them closely especially until all the vehicles are spotted and the ferry leaves the dock. Moving around the deck while vehicles are being spotted is the equivalent of playing in the street. It is best to move up the stairway to the upper deck at least until the ferry is underway. The cabin is air-conditioned and there are two public heads onboard. (That's bathroom facilities for you landlubbers) They are adequate, that's about all I can say about that.
If you plan on feeding the Seagulls be sure and bring plenty of old bread. Seagull feeding is limited to the stern (back) of the ferry.
If you decide to take your car to Port Bolivar you might as well enjoy some local color. A good seafood dinner at "Shirley's" will fill you up and entertain you with a collage of interesting people from tourist, weekend fishermen, to full time seadogs.
Go to this web page for the latest schedule: Ferry Schedule